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Valley arts looking for diversity, space for different viewpoints

Jul 8, 2015

At the Harvey/Meadows Gallery on Hopkins Avenue in Aspen, Sam Harvey answers the phone as he tends to his space. He runs the gallery with his business partner, Alleghany Meadows.  Sam is what you could call a needle in a haystack. He’s a black man who runs an art gallery in Aspen.

 

For Harvey, the main issue surrounding art and diversity is the ability for people to access art.

“It’s an accessibility thing, having access to platforms to show your work and engage in the larger Aspen community," Havey says. "They’re not that many places to show work. We don’t really have a public venue to show artwork in this town...If there was a gallery that was non-commercial, it could take more risks with a diverse spectrum of artwork.

 

 

A poster for a Cabondale Council for the Arts and Humanities poster, printed in English and Spanish (Patrick Fort/Aspen Public Radio News).

Harvey says one of his dreams is to open a non-profit gallery so that the kind of art he is talking about can be displayed. According to Sam, the problem is money. If you don’t own your space, your first priority can’t be on what message you want to send with your art. It just has to be able to sell.

Angie Callen, the executive director of the Red Brick Center for the Arts agrees with Harvey’s analysis of the profit/non-profit divide.

“In a lot of cases when you’re trying to diversify, or step outside the box or explore new territory, there is some kind of financial restriction there that may make it seem not worth it,” says Callen.

 

 

Just a few blocks away from Harvey’s gallery is the Aspen Art Museum.

 

Heidi Zuckerman is the CEO of the museum and explained a program that aims to bring in members of the Valley’s Latino community. She says reaction has been positive.

“The one that Michelle really called out was a woman who specifically said, ‘I would not come here, had I not been invited.’ So not ‘No, I wouldn’t come to a museum,’ not ‘I wouldn’t be interested in contemporary art,’ but ‘I would not have come had I not been invited,’” Zuckerman says.

 

Zuckerman says the museum has attempted to remove any barriers of entry to minorities in the area by making admission free, and holding events where members of the Hispanic community were directly invited.

 

Zuckerman claimed that the museum showcased more solo exhibitions by women and artists of color than any other in the country. Though the list of exhibits is diverse, museum officials could not verify her claim.

 

A short drive away, the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities is trying to do similar things for its community.

 

“We’ve seen how much they are engaged right now than they were fifteen years ago," says Amy Kimberly, the executive director of the Council. "I’ve been at the Arts Council for eleven, twelve years, so I’ve really seen the difference and the difference that it makes. It’s a lot of fun and it feels really good.”

 

Sam Harvey works in his gallery in Aspen (Patrick Fort/Aspen Public Radio).

She says that her community poses challenges to reaching the larger Hispanic community. Carbondale has nearly three-times as many Latino residents as Aspen does according to U.S. census data.

Through outreach programs similar to ones at the Aspen Art Museum, the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities has managed to involve local minorities. Their strategy is by starting young. Reach out to children, who then involve their parents. But Kimberly also feels that race isn’t the only way that members of the art establishment need to think about diversity.

 

“You know, diversity in this area can be from economic status to age, to nationality,” says Kimberly.

 

Sam Harvey agrees.

 

 

"For me it’s not a black or a white issue," says Harvey. "It’s not African-Americans and white people. It’s the ideal of America, which is a platform where everyone can participate. That’s a lofty goal, a lofty and worthy goal to support.”